LOS ANGELES (Feb. 5)
German and Argentine authorities knew as early as 1956 that Dr. Josef Mengele, a top Nazi war criminal, was hiding in Argentina, according to newly opened files released in Buenos Aires.
At that time, Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death” at Auschwitz and for decades the target of Nazi-hunters, walked into the German Embassy in Buenos Aires under his own name and was also fitfully tracked by Argentine police.
The new information on Mengele and other war criminals was discovered Tuesday by Dr. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in his initial inspection of files released the day before by Argentine President Carlos Menem.
The long sought-after files are to be made public by the Argentine National Archives in a month’s time, but Samuels, director of the Latin American and European offices of the Wiesenthal Center, was able to gain immediate access.
The files are contained in 40 cardboard folders.
“The lackadaisical way the German and Argentine authorities went after Mengele proves again how right the Israelis were to grab Adolf Eichmann in 1960,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.
It was only after Eichmann’s abduction that the Germans went seriously after other war criminals, said Cooper.
Surprisingly, Samuels was unable to find any files on Eichmann himself and he was informed that none existed. “It’s not unusual that files are missing on the first sweep around, but Samuels will formally request the Eichmann files tomorrow,” Cooper said.
TWO FILES ON BORMANN CASE
Two files on Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler’s deputy, confirmed beliefs that Bormann never entered Argentina but stayed in Europe until his death. Apparently another person, falsely using Bormann’s name, did come to Argentina.
Another file covered Walter Kutschmann, an SS officer responsible for the mass murder of Jews in Poland, and showed that he came to Argentina from Spain with documents identifying him as a Catholic priest.
Most Nazi war criminals reached Argentina and other Latin American countries via the so-called “Rat Line,” which furnished the fugitives with Red Cross passports, issued on the recommendation of the Vatican, Samuels said.
Samuels also examined the files on two SS commanders in charge of ghettos in Poland and Lithuania, Josef Schwammberger, currently on trial in Stuttgart, Germany, and Eduard Roschmann, second chief of the Riga Ghetto, held responsible for the deaths of about 35,000 Jews. He is known to have died in Paraguay.
Samuels said that his initial findings represented merely the tip of the iceberg, and he contested a statement by the German ambassador in Buenos Aires that no war criminals are now living in Argentina.
Wiesenthal himself has named Rudolf Mildner, who was head of the Gestapo secret police in Katowice, Poland, during the war.
Another person who has been sought in Argentina is Abraham Kipp, a convicted Dutch Nazi.